Protection of Conscience Project
Protection of Conscience Project
Service, not Servitude

Service, not Servitude
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Commentaries on State Laws and Regulations

The commentaries provided on the website are not a substitute for legal advice provided by a qualified professional. 


Arizona Court of Appeals upholds state protection of conscience law
(August, 2011)

Planned Parenthood Arizona sought to have a statute restricting abortion quashed as unconstitutional. It obtained a preliminary injunction and the case was appealed.  The Court of Appeals ruled that the statute was constitutional. Since Planned Parenthood had challenged the protection of conscience provisions of the statute, the Court also dealt with freedom of conscience for health care workers. It ruled that "a woman's right to an abortion or to contraception does not compel a private person or entity to facilitate either," and "whatever right a woman may have to 'chart her own medical course,' it cannot compel a health-care provider to provide her chosen care."
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Hawaii legalizes assisted suicide
Refusing to refer for suicide may incur legal liability
(April, 2018)

Sean Murphy |  . . .beginning next year, Hawaiian physicians who refuse to facilitate assisted suicide by referring patients to a willing colleague may face discipline — including expulsion from the medical profession — or other legal liabilities. Hawaii could become one of only two jurisdictions in the world where willingness to refer patients for suicide is a condition for practising medicine. . .
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Re: Illinois "emergency" regulation struck down
(June, 2011)

Cristina Alarcon  | . . Clearly, the state's concept of "emergency" was fabricated in order to justify the imposition of a moral ideology on unwilling citizens. . .
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Illinois controversy about legislative overreach
Catholic bishops withdraw opposition, others remain opposed
Confrontation centres on complicity

 Sean Murphy  |  Among American states, Illinois has the most comprehensive protection of conscience legislation, the Health Care Right of Conscience Act (HCRCA). . . Now it appears that the HRCA may be changed by Senate Bill 1564. Critics say the bill tramples upon physician freedom of conscience, while the bill's supporters, like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), claim that the bill is "about making sure no one is withholding information from the patient."
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Indiana assisted suicide bill fails to protect objecting practitioners
New version of bill affirms assisted suicide is "medical care"

Sean Murphy  |  . . . participation in assisted suicide is described in HB1020 as the provision of "medical care," including prescribing or dispensing lethal medication and being present at a patient's suicide. . . in the long term, statutory affirmation that assisted suicide is not only permitted but is a form of "medical care" would likely have serious adverse consequences for objecting Indiana physicians.
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The Health Care Providers' Rights of Conscience Act
(February, 2002)

US Conference of Catholic Bishops | . . .The proposed bill and other conscience protections recognize a basic principle: no one, least of all a health care provider committed to healing, should be forced to violate his or her conscience by participating in procedures that he or she deems to be harmful or morally wrong. Out of respect for religious freedom, concern for the ethical integrity of the medical profession, and appreciation for the diversity of our health system and our society, all should agree to help prevent such coercion. . . .
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Maine, assisted suicide, and freedom of conscience
Accommodation of objecting physicians convoluted and unsatisfactory

Sean Murphy  | The provisions of Maine's Death with Dignity Act relevant to the accommodation of freedom of conscience and religion are so convoluted and unsatisfactory that one wonders if Maine legislators actually intended to enact what they have written.
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Re: Michigan House Bills 5006, 5276, 5277, and 5278
(March, 2004)

Testimony of Michael J. ODea | . . . It is the gift of freedom that my family and I have enjoyed; and the protection of that freedom for my children and our nation's children that brings me here to testify in support of this most important Health Care Right of Conscience legislation. My testimony will pay particular attention to the right of conscience for those who finance health care . . .
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Re: Legislative Bill LB 564
(March, 2013)

Testimony of Clyde R. Meckel, MD |  Thank you for the opportunity to testify in support of LB564- the Health Care Freedom of Conscience Act. The purpose of this bill is to respect and protect the fundamental right of conscience of licensed individuals who provide health care. This is a critical matter of protecting one of our most fundamental liberties.
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Testimony of Anna R. Franzonello | . . .I have thoroughly reviewed LB 564, which provides protection-and an adequate enforcement mechanism-for healthcare providers' freedom of conscience. I am testifying in this proceeding as an expert in constitutional law and as an expert on laws respecting the freedom of conscience. I appreciate this opportunity to testify as to the constitutionality of LB 564 and the necessity of protecting the freedom of conscience of healthcare providers. . .
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New Jersey assisted suicide law and freedom of conscience
Lack of clarity on referral  is unsatisfactory

Sean Murphy  | The lack of clarity in and conflict in the law about referral are most unsatisfactory because referral is a particularly contentious subject, and forcing referral upon unwilling physicians is a violation of freedom of conscience.
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New Mexico’s Uniform Health-Care Decisions Act

Sean Murphy  | New Mexico’s Uniform Health-Care Decisions Act (UHCDA) is modelled on a draft uniform statute of the same name produced in 1993 by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws. Two years later, New Mexico became the first state to enact the law, closely following the original draft. An understanding of the provisions of the statute is necessary to appreciate the implications it may have for freedom of conscience for health care practitioners.
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New Mexico legislation and freedom of conscience for health care practitioners
Effect of pending bills on abortion and assisted suicide

Sean Murphy  | The continuing status of freedom of conscience for health care practitioners in New Mexico is uncertain because of an existing statute governing health care decisions and bills about abortion and assisted suicide being considered by the state legislature.
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New Mexico assisted suicide bill subverts freedom of conscience for health care practitioners

Sean Murphy  | House Bill 47 (the Elizabeth Whitfield End-of-Life Options Act) was introduced in the New Mexico house in January, 2021. It would amend existing criminal law to permit “medical aid in dying” (assisted suicide). . . HB 47 defines this as a medical practice, which has significant implications for all health care practitioners in the state. The bill also includes definitions and provisions that conflict with New Mexico’s Uniform Health-Care Decisions Act (UHCDA).
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Re: Ohio House Bill 68
(May, 2004)

Testimiony of Karen Brauer | House Bill 68 addresses the need for protecting a pharmacist's right to choose to dispense only those drugs which promote life and health of a patient. There is a long medical tradition admonishing the health care professional to do no harm. This tradition codified most clearly in the Hippocratic Oath has unfortunately been set aside by many. Others of us wish to adhere to a practice of preserving and promoting human life. . .
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Testimony of Robert Garbe | I support H.B. 68, sponsored by Representative Keith Faber, because I will most likely lose my job if I follow my conscience and not fill a prescription that will kill a baby. There is an unwritten rule that if I do not satisfy the customer's legal requests I will place my employment in serious jeopardy.
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Re: Oregon Initiative Petition 40
Risks Eyed in Drive for Health Access (February, 2006)

Catholic Sentinel | . . . "Protecting the conscience rights of physicians and health care providers is essential to any proposed constitutional amendment that seeks to establish access to health care as a 'fundamental right,'" says a statement from the guild's president, Dr. Lynne Bissonnette. "The conscience rights of physicians and health care providers cannot be deferred for later inclusion in statutory legislation." . . .
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Re: Board of Pharmacy Regulation (2007-2012)

 Carrie Severino  | My organization, the Judicial Education Project, in conjunction with two leading Jewish Orthodox Groups, Agudath Israel of America and the National Council of Young Israel, has filed an amicus curiae brief in a Becket Fund case, Stormans Inc. v. Mary Selecky, et al. . . .  Stormans challenges the constitutionality of Washington State's Board of Pharmacy regulations that require pharmacists and pharmacies to dispense emergency contraceptives. Unfortunately, this regulatory burden falls-due to secular regulatory exemptions and the Board's selective regulatory enforcement-exclusively on religious objections to emergency contraception, while passing over similarly situated non-religious objectors. . .
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Re: Wisconsin Insurance Mandate for Contraceptive Services

Statement of Wisconsin Catholic Conference (August, 2009)

. . . The constitutional right to religious freedom embraces more than just the right to hold private beliefs and affirm personal values. Such freedom also includes the ability to bear public witness to our values  . . . Nowhere does the Constitution say that the right of conscience is protected except in matters related to human reproduction. Nor does it limit the scope of religious freedom to tenets that conform to a party platform or to the agenda of powerful interest groups. . .
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Re: Wisconsin Assembly Bill 207
(July, 2005)

Their choice vs. that other choice

Rick Esenberg | . . . Opponents of laws like the Conscience Protection Act suggest that if a health care professional has a moral objection to such things, she should leave the profession. She can exercise her choice but only at the price of her livelihood. Cold comfort that.  In the world of the American Civil Liberties Union, virtually every type of discrimination would be prohibited except that practiced against those with the "wrong" religious and moral views. . .
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The nation's most comprehensive medical conscience rights legislation

Susan Armacost |. . .The underlying principle embodied in AB 207 is that health care professionals, medical students, health care facilities and medical schools should not be forced to participate in activities that involve the deliberate destruction of human life. . .
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Wisconsin Senate Bill 155 (April, 2005)

Pro-Life Wisconsin Talking Points

SB 155 would protect the right of pharmacists to conscientiously refuse to engage in practices that violate the sanctity of human life. The Pharmacists' Conscience Clause Bill would extend that conscience protection to pharmacists who refuse to participate in chemical abortion and euthanasia. Outside of the hospital setting, pharmacists enjoy no clear protection. SB 155 seeks to fill this conspicuously unjust hole in Wisconsin law.
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Re: Wisconsin Assembly Bill 67 (October, 2003)

Testimony of Mary A. Kalver

. . .In today's world, more and more health care providers find that some health care practices raise serious moral concerns. Social, legal, and medical developments involving abortion, assisted suicide, euthanasia, withdrawal of feeding tubes for the purpose of causing a person's death by starvation or dehydration, human embryo destruction, human embryonic stem cell research and tissue transplants from aborted babies have put health care providers in the center of some of society's most controversial moral dilemmas. . .
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Testimony of John T. Dunlop, M.D.

. . .Where medically appropriate I offer, educate, argue, strongly encourage, but I will not force my opinion on her. If a patient did not show the same respect for me, but insist that I act in violation of my conscience, I would consider that a grave violation of the covenant of mutual respect that must exist between us. . .
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Testimony of Cynthia Jones-Nosachek, M.D.

. . . Finally, the protection provided in this bill for the refusal to refer. This is not abandonment. We will continue to treat the patient. However, we refuse to treat in a manner that we think is immoral. Remember that what has been legal is not always moral. If a physician in the Tuskegee Syphilis study had refused to let his patients be placed into that study, should he have been forced to do so? . . .
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Testimony of Leah Vukmir

. . .  I signed onto this bill to protect health care professionals from employment discrimination, civil penalties and potential professional sanctions - health care professionals who choose to abide by their conscience. . .
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Testimony of Marianne Linane, RN

. . .As the current nursing shortage continues to grow and with no end in sight, it would be unwise to drive out any nurse who would feel forced to give up his or her profession rather than to compromise conscience on any one of these issues. They must know that they will be protected from having to participate in these objectionable practices. . .
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Testimony of Matthew B. Lee, MD

I would like to thank the committee and Chairperson Roessler for hearing my testimony to AB 67. My name is Matthew Lee. I am a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist in private practice at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I have been there in practice for four years. I have a clinical appointment at the Medical College of Wisconsin as a Clinical Associate Professor. . .
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Testimony of Beth LaChance, RN

. . . I . . . experienced an onslaught of disciplinary reprimands, retaliation, criticism and ostracism. . . I was no longer assigned to train or mentor new nurses despite my credentials and qualifications.  . . .I was denied career advancement to clinical nurse three status, as the research project which qualified me for advancement, was resigned to another nurse without my prior knowledge or consent. I was grilled as a "second class nurse" or "nobody". . .
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